Fashion's best feminist moments

Chiara Ferragni wears sunglasses and a white T-shirt with the inscription ‘We should all be Feminists’, to attend the Christian Dior Haute Couture Spring Summer 2017 show as part of Paris Fashion Week in 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Fashion has been many things over the years: oppressive, narrow-minded, fat-phobic and ageist, to name a few. Fashion’s also been a liberating force that reflects our modern history. A new hemline can indicate a time of boom or bust, while a trans model fronting an intimates campaign can highlight that we’re moving forward as a society. Also: feminist slogan tees are most definitely in style, season after season after season…

Here are some of our favourite feminist fashion moments over the years.

Fashion designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, center, chats with dancer Serge Lifar, left, and Jacques Chazot in Paris, France, 1970. (Photo: AP Photo via Getty Images)

Pretty much all of Coco Chanel’s contributions to fashion

Wearing black! Not having to wear corsets! Trousers for women! Little black dresses! Costume jewellery! We can credit all of these amazing fashion leaps, which changed how women would express themselves through fashion, to one remarkable French lady called Gabrielle. Thank you for all of it, including your continuing impact in the wardrobes of modern women.

 

British fashion designer Mary Quant, right, waves as she poses with models wearing her Mod creations in Little Rock, Ark in 1968. The models, from left, are, Amanda Tear, Rory Davis and Penny Yates. (Photo: AP Photo via Getty Images)

The arrival of the mini

Mary Quant may not have invented the mini-skirt (although everyone thinks she did), but she is the pioneer who made sure everyone wanted one. These days, it’s hard to think that a skirt worn slightly above the knee could be revolutionary, but some revolutions start with a snip of fabric. You can learn more about Mary Quant with the latest V&A exhibition that pays tribute to her, on in London until February 2020.

 

READ MORE: Girl power anthems we love

T-shirt activism, on and off the catwalk

A guest wears sunglasses and a T-shirt with the inscription ‘We should all be feminists’, before the Christian Dior show as part of the Paris Fashion Week in 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Feminism was on every woke designer’s mind in 2017-18, and you could feel the spirit of empowered women everywhere. It was glorious, from Mara Hoffman including Women’s March founders reading inspiring statements in her catwalk show, to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s “We Should All Be Feminists” T-shirts parading down the Dior runway (and into every stylish woman’s wardrobe).

Prabal Gurung showed his political side by sending models down the catwalk wearing T-shirts which read, “The Future is Female” and “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” while Jonathan Simkhai had everyone smiling with his “Feminist AF” T-shirts. Welcome to the present – and future – of fashion: feminism on your sleeve, chest, trouser leg. Everywhere.

 

Barbie girl in a plus-sized world. (Photo: Gabi Gregg)

When Gabi Gregg launched a swimsuit revolution

Body-positive blogger and all-round inspiring woman (she calls Jameela Jamil a pal), Gabi Gregg, aka GabiFresh, has been designing sellout, sexy, stylish and not-seen-before curve swimwear that women cannot get enough of. She’s recently released her playful 11th collection in collaboration with Swimsuits For All, and is also busy designing racy lingerie with Playful Promises and clothes for Premme. Did we mention she’s inspiring millions in the process?

 

Munroe Bergdorf launches lingerie line following Victoria’s Secret anti-trans comments (Image: Bluebella)

When Munroe Bergdorf challenged Victoria’s Secret

English trans model and activist Munroe Bergdorf isn’t afraid to open her mouth – even if it gets her into trouble (she was famously fired from a L’Oréal campaign for alleged racist comments). In 2019, after expressing her anger and disappointment at Victoria’s Secret’s refusal to use trans models, she fronted a lingerie campaign for Bluebella. Even more significant? Her comments got Victoria’s Secret chief marketing officer Ed Razek to apologise – and even say he’d reconsider trans models in the future. Meanwhile, transgender lingerie designer Carmen Liu recently launched a collection of intimate apparel specifically for trans women, on the catwalk, to make all women feel sexy.

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Photo: Getty Images)

When RBG became our fashion icon (and not just our icon for everything else)

When women start wanting to dress like an octogenarian Supreme Court Justice, you start to appreciate how powerful fashion as a symbol can be. We’re talking about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s jabots, which she also uses symbolically – she wears different ones depending on how she feels about certain court decisions. Her “dissent collar” from Banana Republic was reissued in 2019, with 50% of the proceeds from each necklace going to RBG’s ACLU Women’s Rights Project. And women everywhere rejoiced, and then purchased the bib necklace.

 

Model and new mum Valeria Garcia wearing an innovative breast pump on the catwalk during the Marta Jakubowski London Fashion Week show held at the BFC space, London. (Photo: Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images)

 

When a model walked the Marta Jakubowski LFW show while pumping breast milk

Valeria Garcia wore the silent, discreet and small-enough-to-slip-into-your-bra Elvie nursing pump while modelling in the Marta Jakubowski show, illustrating that breastfeeding can be the norm – and that certain female entrepreneurs are changing the game for women in exciting ways. Could this just be the beginning of a new era in the acceptance and appreciation of motherhood? Watch this space.

 

Period pants from Wuka. (Photo: © WUKA ltd. 2017)

The arrival of period pants

We have, happily, had a revolution in our pants. Just think of the shame and weirdness surrounding the topic of menstrual blood, including the inability to show anything that even remotely resembled it in TV adverts for decades. And now? Women are embracing free-bleeding, with a little help thanks to stylish and comfy period pants from brands like Wuka and Dear Kate, which also makes period leggings. Now, to eradicate period poverty next…

 

Slick Woods walks at the Savage x Fenty show at New York Fashion Week in September 12, 2018 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo: Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

When a model walked the Savage x Fenty show in LABOUR

It’s impressive enough that Slick Woods was nine months pregnant when she owned the runway in the Savage x Fenty NYFW show in September 2018. Even better? This is the face – and strut – of a woman in labour. She was 2cm dilated as she walked the show.

 

READ MORE: Nine times Emma Watson was our favourite feminist hero